Stage 16: Vaison-la-Romaine to Gap


Garden of the 9 damsels

Set at the entrance of town, the Garden of the 9 damsels is noteworthy for the 81 stones standing inside, the works of sculptors Fabienne Verse and Serge Boyer. Starting with the nine cities named European capitals of culture in 2000 - Reykjavik, Bergen, Helsinki, Brussels, Prague, Krakow, Bologna, Avignon and Santiago de Compostela – the 81 stones bear the engraved names of the cities and a sentence by local poets, in their native language and in French. The remaining stones are engraved each year with the name of a new city and another sentence. The aim is to create “an orchard of wisdom”.


A previous stage start was given from Vaison-la-Romaine in 2002, also after a stage leading to Mont-Venoux. The ride headed for Les Deux Alpes, and the stage was won by Colombia’s Santiago Botero. Belgian Axel Merckx finished third that day, two years after winning a stage of Dauphine Libere starting from Vaison and finishing in Grenoble.His father Eddy also won a stage starting from Vaison-la-Romaine in the 1977 edition of Paris-Nice.



The ancient theatre is preserved as a Historic Monument since 1862.

The symbol of the prosperity of the city of Vasio in the Roman era, its is one of the rare public buildings still visible today. It <as probably built in the 1st century in the reign of Emperor Claudius.

Roman bridge

The gallo-roman bridge is the link between the modern downtown and the medieval city. It is one of the major monuments in town. Built in the 1st century, it used to stand over a bustling acticity of boatmen and trade on the river Ouveze in Antiquity.

Street of Boutiques

The magnificent street is one of the most striking examples of the urban organisation of Vasio. Paved with large stones to favour the traffic, it was an important link between the North and the South parts of the city. It was also a busy commercial street lined with boutiques. The clients bought from outside stalls and remained outside the shops.

Notre-Dame de Nazareth cathedral:

The cathedral stood in the heart of a medieval city now almost entirely gone. The bishop used to stay in a nearby Epicopal palace and the canons in the cloister and the adjacent buildings. Built in the 11th century on the site of ancient Christian temples, it is a fine example of the Romanesque art in Provence. One of its characteristics is the presence of antique material reused in the construction.

The castle

In the early 12th century, Vaison belonged to the county of Provence, ruled by the Count of Toulouse. The count was constantly at odds with the bishop, who ruled the city since 1108. To assert his power, Raymond VI of Toulouse first built a tower in timber then a keep of stone. The castle is composed of three main buildings flanked with a square keep around a courtyard. Additions were made to the original building in the 15th century and confirmed the military vocation of the castle. Abandoned during the Revolution in 1791, it was sold to the municipality.

Dentelles de Montmirail

They are foothills of the highest peak in Provence, Mont Ventoux, which is situated just to the east. The dramatically jagged shape of their peaks was formed by horizontal strata of Jurassic limestone being folded and forced into a nearly upright position and subsequently eroded into sharp-edged ridges and spikes. The highest peak of the Dentelles is St-Amand, at 734 m. The range, which is about 8 km wide, offers over 600 trails for walking, rock climbing, and mountain biking. The foot of the Dentelles is surrounded by vineyards of the Rhone Valley.


It all started as an idea from Gap bishop Jean-Michel de Falco, who took inspiration from Irish band The Priests to convince three members of his clergy to make a record to fund the construction of a new church in the village of Notre Dame de Laus. The trio recorded an album called Spiritus Dei, which became an instant best-seller and chart topper. Jean-Michel Bardet, curate in the centre of Gap, was a trained musician while Charles Troesch had sung with a famous child choir. The third man in the band, Dinh Nguyen Nguyen, is a seminarist. Royalties from the record will also be used to buy computer equipment for a school in Madagascar. Les Prêtres sing classics of the religious repertoire like Ave Maria or Minuit Chretien but they also tackled songs by Jacques Brel or Leonard Cohen. A recent tour has been extremely successful.


In 21 visits to Gap, the Tour saw victories by cycling greats such as Raphael Geminiani, Gastone Nencini, Jean-Francois Bernard, Erik Zabel or Alexandre Vinokourov. But the town was also the start of legendary stages towards Briancon marked by the triumphs of Louison Bobet, Fausto Coppi or Federico Bahamontes. Since then, rirdes from Gap more frequently went to l’Alpe d’Huez, as is the case again this year. In 1991, a simialr stage went to Gianny Bugno while Frank Schleck won in 2006.

Solitary raids were also often successful in Gap and suceh was the case for Jean-Francois Bernard in 1986, Alexandre Vinokourov in 2003 or Pierrick Fedrigo in 2006. In the last stage to Gap in 2011, a bold move was again rewarded when Thor Hushovd clinched his 10th Tour vicotry at the expense of fellow-Norwegain Devald Boasson-Hagen.



The museum holds the mausoleum of Francois de Bonne de Lesdiguieres, the last Constable of France. It was made in black marble by sculptor Jacob Richier.


Built between 1866 and 1904, the neo-Gothic cathedral Notre Dame and St Arnoux replaced an older medieval building. (External link) (External link) (External link) (External link)

Vaison-la-Romaine, Gap